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22 May, 2024

Statistical News Release: The Proportion of Scotland's Protected Sites in Favourable Condition 2024

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

22 May 2024 - NatureScot has today released the latest figures tracking the proportion of Scottish natural features in favourable or recovering condition. 

The main findings show that, as of 31 March 2024, 75.6% of Scotland’s natural features on protected nature sites are either in, or recovering towards, a favourable condition. This figure represents a 4.2 percentage point increase since the baseline in 2005. There is a 0.9 percentage point decrease since last year. 

(A difference of less than +/-1 percentage point from last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change.) 

The report draws on annual monitoring carried out by NatureScot of the condition of the 5,600 natural features across Scotland. As of 31 March 2024, 5,423 natural features were assessed, divided into three categories: habitats such as grasslands, woodlands and uplands (73.4% in favourable condition), species such as the evidence of seabirds breeding, presence of freshwater pearl mussels and number of vascular plant populations (72.4% in favourable condition) and earth sciences such as geographical outcrops and landforms, fossil beds and caves (94.7% in favourable condition). 

Deterioration in the proportion of sites in favourable condition is the result of: 

  • Repeated assessments for 65 features, 
    • 56 of which were previously favourable but were now found to be unfavourable, and 
    • 9 which were under management actions, but that management action is no longer thought to be sufficient to bring the feature into favourable condition. This can be due to new pressures being indentified, for example. 
  • 10 features where management actions have come to an end and the default is to return the condition of these features to unfavourable until a new assessment can be undertaken. 
  • 8 features that were assessed for the first time and found to be in unfavourable condition. 

This is in contrast to: 

  • 20 features with a repeat assessment which resulted in an improved condition, 
  • 3 features which were previously unfavourable but are now under management agreements or actions to improve the condition, and 
  • 53 features that were assessed for the first time and found to be in a favourable condition. 

Other findings of note from the report include: 

  • 7 of the 8 habitat categories had a decline in the proportion of features in favourable condition between -0.3 percentage points (wetland) and -3.0 percentage points (coastal). Marine increased by +0.1 percentage points. 
  • 6 of the 10 species habitat categories had no change in the proportion of features in favourable condition. Marine mammals had the largest increase (+3.4 percentage points), and vascular plants had the largest decrease (-3.7 percentage points). 
  • The natural feature types with the highest proportion in favourable condition were dragonflies (100%), marine habitats (96.2%) and earth science (94.7%). 
  • The natural feature types with the lowest proportion in favourable condition were woodlands (56.8%), marine mammals (62.1%) and birds (67.6%). 

Invasive species are the main reason for natural features being in unfavourable condition, representing 21.3% of all negative pressures, which is stable from last year. This category includes both native species such as bracken or nettles, and non-native species such as rhododendron or Japanese knotweed. Changes in management or removal of these species has to be undertaken to promote recovery to favourable condition. 

There are 426 natural features with no on-site remedy, which is similar to last year. These are features where the pressure is beyond the boundary of the feature itself so to bring these natural features into favourable condition is beyond local management. 

1. A difference of less than +/-1 percentage point from last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. 


Contact information

NatureScot Media
0131 316 2655

Notes to editors

The figures presented here, including the overall 75.6% figure, is rounded to one decimal place. Access the full statistical publication.

NatureScot’s Site Condition Monitoring (SCM) programme began in 1999 to examine the condition and status of over 1,800 protected areas and their 5,600 natural features on protected natural sites in Scotland. All features are considered to be important at the national (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), European (Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area) and international (Ramsar) levels. Research is carried out by NatureScot staff and specialist contractors.

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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